Small STARS Step Up in Lindsay

Lindsay has long been labeled a disadvantaged community plagued by poverty and poor water quality. But that hasn’t deterred a small group of residents from trying to solve some of the communities biggest issues.

Thirty-three 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Washington Elementary School come together for two to three hours each day afterschool to help their classmates, neighbors and fellow Lindsay residents. Jessica Arellano, program leader for the STARS Afterschool program at Washington, said the students decided to do a clothing drive in February. In just three weeks, the children helped collect 1,800 items of clothing including shoes, shirts, pants, sweaters and coats.

The students are part of the Tienken Academy, the portion of the afterschool program focused on grades 6-8. They are known as the Tienken Tigers, for the afterschool program and the school’s mascot. Last Tuesday, 11 of those students, including several with disabilities, marched around the corner to Lindsay Healthy Start Family Resource Center where Director Stephanie Hrnois presented them with a certificate of appreciation for their work in helping meet the needs of those in need in their town.

“This was a great opportunity for them to be part of something special,” Arellano said. “The best part is that they came up with this idea on their own.”

Ikonkar Khalsa, an eight grader at Washington Elementary, said it was important for her to be involved in the clothing drive because she knows many of her classmates’ families can’t afford to buy them clothes when they need them.

“I wanted to be involved in something and this is important in our town,” she said. “At my home we are always thinking about ways to help out and how to donate things we don’t need or that someone else might need more.”

Arellano said this is not the first time the students have worked toward helping others. In December the students, ages 12-14, decorated a Christmas tree and sang carols for the elderly at Lindsay Gardens skilled nursing home. They also gave Christmas to 11 families by collecting donations of toys, canned food and decorations before winter break.

“I am very proud of them,” Arellano said. “They set goals for themselves and then went out and achieved them.”

The Tienken Tigers are also working to improve the drinking water at their school. Arellano said students are raising money through STARS Change For Change drive to put Pur water filters on every water fountain at the school. Arellano said the school needs about 40 filters to complete the project at a total cost of about $2,000. She said students are raising the money by making donation cans out of one-gallon water jugs. The jugs are being placed all over the school, the Healthy Start Office and at the following businesses: Wild Bills Barbershop, Sierra Express Mart, G1 Food Mart and Willie’s Market.

Jimmy Guajardo, an 8th grader in the afterschool program, said he was concerned with the water quality at the school and in Lindsay. He wanted to do his part of make sure every student had access to high quality drinking water.

“This project will help students now and others in the future,” he said.

The projects are all part of Washington School’s effort to win a Step Up Challenge grant from Tulare County’s anti-bullying and gang prevention program.

Stacey Reeves, Site Coordinator with STARS in Lindsay, said she hopes the work done by students at Washington School will encourage Lindsay’s other five K-8 schools to start similar projects.

“In Lindsay we have 11 lifelong learning standards and these students are doing projects that fit in with most of them,” The ideas are easier for students to relate to when there is an activity and they have really run with it. We are very proud of them.”

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